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Archive for October 24th, 2013

Business run amok

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Jaw-dropping..

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Business

Hoist by a petard quite similar to the ones he himself uses

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Pretty wonderful. Hayes Brown reports at ThinkProgress:

Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden is more used to being the one listening in on conversations than the one being eavesdropped on himself. The tables were turned on Thursday, however, as Hayden suddenly found his supposedly private conversations blasted across the Internet.

Riding on the Acela express train between New York and Washington, DC, Hayden had the bad luck of sitting near entrepreneur and former MoveOn.org director Tom Matzzie. “Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official’,” Matzzie wrote on his Twitter account. “Sounds defensive.” For the next twenty minutes, Mattzie continued to livetweet Hayden’s conversations slamming the Obama administration, all the while insisting that he be referred to only on background.

The conversation also seemed to touch on Hayden’s time as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush as well. “Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago,” Mattzie wrote. Hayden has in the past defended the use of waterboarding against detainees held in various sites around the world, and dismissed torture as a “legal term.”

“On Acela listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give ‘off record’ interviews,” Mattzie joked minutes later. “I feel like I’m in the NSA. Except I’m in public.” Hayden has been a vociferous defender of the NSA’s ongoing surveillance tactics, claiming repeatedly that the leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have harmed U.S. security.

It’s unclear precisely which news outlets Hayden was speaking to during the train ride, which passed through Philadelphia around 4:45 PM, though he was apparently speaking on the recent stories revealing the extent of NSA spying on allies like Germany and France. Mattzie speculated that one of the reporters was Massimo Calabresi at TIME magazine, but it will be impossible to determine until stories attributable to a “former senior administration official” begin to be published. See the full stream of tweets describing the situation here: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 2:59 pm

Question for marketing people: Are any current corporate logs gifs?

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I don’t think so: corporate logos are still oriented to print as the medium: brochures, business cards, letterhead, print ads in magazines, and so on.

And yet… all those are giving away to digital media, and generally high-resolution, image-oriented, interactive, computer-based devices. E.g., the iPhone fits the bill, particularly the later models. A laptop, obviously.

I bet the average target customer for a middle-class demographic already consumes more reading matter (email, digital reports, digital versions of newspapers) via digital media and than via print.

So why shouldn’t the primary corporate logo be a gif of some sort? With sound for those devices that support it. Sound would be tricky: have to be quiet and pleasant and probably default to “off”. But still useful in on-line ads.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Breast density and breast cancer

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Breast density is correlated with breast cancer: a denser breast is more apt to harbor cancer—and to hide it from mammograms. Elizabeth Limbach has a lengthy article at AlterNet:

One in eight. That’s how many women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This grim statistic lands in the spotlight during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is currently underway.

But, for all of the awareness raised about breast cancer over the years, there’s a certain term that is largely left out of the lexicon surrounding breast cancer,the most common cancer in women. It’s a term Connecticut resident and cancer survivor Nancy Cappello has spent nearly a decade fighting to retrieve from the shadows and inject into the conversation. This term is “breast density.”

“If you look in the news this October, it’ll be pink, pink, pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month,” says Cappello. “I call it breast densityunawareness—many women still do not know of breast density, or if they’ve heard of it, they don’t know what it really means to them.”

Breast density refers to the ratio of tissue to fat in a woman’s breast. A dense breast has more fibroglandular tissue and less fat. Forty [3]percent of women have dense tissue, according to the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), which is significant because these women are five times more likely to develop breast cancer. They’re also less likely to have it detected on a mammogram.

A January 2011 Mayo Clinic study [4] found that mammograms fail to find 75 percent of cancer in women with dense breast tissue. The primary cause of “false-negative results” in mammograms is high breast density, according to the NCI.

However, until recently, it was standard practice nationwide for doctors to keep information about breast density from patients, and as a result many people with dense breasts do not have cancer detected until it is well developed.

While breast density—and the ineffectiveness of mammograms on dense breasts—is not new, in recent years a battle has arisen to bring unprecedented attention to the issue. As a result the standard practice of keeping breast density knowledge a secret from women has begun to change, but not without a surprising amount of opposition. On the frontlines of resistance is the American College of Radiology (ACR), the nation’s principal association of radiology professionals, an organization that benefits financially from mammograms.

The Status Quo

When Cappello was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer in early 2004, she was baffled. Less than three months earlier, she’d received normal results on her mammogram, just as she always had from her annual screenings, which she was diligent about. Her doctor found a lump during a standard manual exam that turned out to be cancer that had spread to 13 lymph nodes and most likely been developing for years.

“What do you mean I have breast cancer?” she recalls asking her doctor. “What happened? I just got a mammogram that says ‘we are pleased to tell you that your results are normal.’”

The answer she was given perplexed her further. She was told that she had dense breasts, and that dense tissue shows up as white on a mammogram and can “mask,” or obscure, cancer, which also appears as white. (Santa Barbara radiologist Judy Dean has said [5] it has been compared to trying to find a snowball in a blizzard.) Why, Cappello demanded, hadn’t she heard of breast density, or been told that she was affected by it?

Simply put, most doctors do not share this information with women. Ninety-five percent of women don’t know their breast tissue density, and less than one in 10 doctors inform their patients of their density, according to a May 2010 survey conducted by Harris Interactive [6].

Under current federal law, radiologists must note a patient’s breast density when reporting mammogram results to the referring physician. The law also requires radiologists to send patients a letter (known as a “lay summary”) with their mammogram results—but this letter does not include information regarding breast density, or how the presence of dense tissue could render the mammogram inconclusive.

So, while a woman’s mammogram provider and her physician know whether she has dense tissue, often the patient herself does not.

Radiologist Thomas Kolb explained the problem with this practice at a press conference [7] at the New York Capitol in spring 2012. In 1998 and 2002, Kolb published research that found similar results as the aforementioned Mayo Clinic study about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of mammograms on dense breasts. While mammograms were able to detect cancer in 98 percent of women with non-dense breasts, he found that 60 percent of cancer in dense breast was “mammographically occult or missed.”

“We as radiologists report to physicians and patients…knowing full well that if a woman has non-dense breasts we are 98% accurate but if she has dense breasts, and were to have a breast cancer, we would only be 40% accurate in our diagnosis,” he said. “Worse, by not detecting her breast cancer we allow it to grow until her next mammogram—or two or three—or until it becomes palpable, which translates to, at a minimum, double the size at which it could have been detected with imaging. However, this information is never directly transmitted to the patient.”

As Cappello was told, patients aren’t notified largely because it is not standard procedure for this information to be included on the lay summary they receive after a mammogram.

As for why the referring doctor hasn’t traditionally told patients (despite the fact that the report they receive from the mammogram provider does include density information), Hospital of Central Connecticut radiologist Jean Weigert says it’s possible that many of doctors have not been educated about density. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 11:38 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Our allies don’t like our spying on them

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Interesting: apparently Obama, despite his frequent claims of embracing “transparency,” has not been so forthcoming with our allies. Alison Smale has an article in the NY Times:

Leaders and citizens in Germany, one of America’s closest allies, simmered with barely contained fury on Thursday over reports that American intelligence had tapped into Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, the latest diplomatic fallout from the documents harvested by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden.

In an unusual move between staunch allies, Germany summoned the United States ambassador over the claims.

Ms. Merkel herself angrily demanded assurances from President Obama that her cellphone was not the target of an American intelligence tap as soon as suspicions surfaced on Wednesday. Washington hastily pledged that her calls were not being monitored and would not be in future but conspicuously said nothing about the past.

While the chancellor kept quiet before heading to Brussels for a European summit on Thursday, one of her closest allies, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, gave full voice to the shock expressed by politicians and citizens.

“If that is true, what we hear, then that would be really bad,” Mr. de Maizière told ARD, Germany’s leading state television channel. America is Germany’s best friend, he noted, adding: “It really can’t work like this.”

He suggested that there would be consequences. “We can’t simply go back to business as usual,” he said.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the leader of the Greens, shared the indignation, noting that America is a close ally but that normal business could not be conducted “if we go about suspecting one another.”

Her consternation was mixed with an element of “we told you so.” The Greens had argued since the first disclosures last summer of mass American surveillance that Ms. Merkel needed to be more vigorous and not simply accept American assurances that no German laws had been broken.

That was also a strong strand in online comments pouring into German media Web sites.

Ms. Merkel’s angry call to Mr. Obama was the second time in 48 hours – after a similar furor in France prompted Mr. Obama to call President François Hollande — that the president found himself on the phone with a close European ally to argue that continuing revelations of invasive intelligence gathering should not undermine decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 11:34 am

Claim on “Attacks Thwarted” by NSA Spreads Despite Lack of Evidence

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Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer have an interesting article in ProPublica. Obviously, NSA, which is burning through billions and billions in its effort to seemingly record all electronic communications on the planet, is highly motivated to show that we’re getting good value for the taxpayer dollars. The massive database of telephone metadata—apparently on all phone calls made in the US—did, NSA reports, contribute somewhat to the capture and conviction of one would-be terrorist, but that seems an awful lot of money and effort to product an “assist.” But that’s only one of the NSA programs.

The article begins:

Two weeks after Edward Snowden’s first revelations about sweeping government surveillance, President Obama shot back. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany,” Obama saidduring a visit to Berlin in June. “So lives have been saved.”

In the months since, intelligence officials, media outlets, and members of Congress from both parties all repeated versions of the claim that NSA surveillance has stopped more than 50 terrorist attacks. The figure has become a key talking point in the debate around the spying programs.

Interactive: How the NSA’s Claim on Thwarted Terrorist Plots Has Spread

“Fifty-four times this and the other program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe — saving real lives,” Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on the House floor in July, referring to programs authorized by a pair of post-9/11 laws. “This isn’t a game. This is real.”

But there’s no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate.

The NSA itself has been inconsistent on how many plots it has helped prevent and what role the surveillance programs played. The agency has often made hedged statements that avoid any sweeping assertions about attacks thwarted.

chart declassified by the agency in July, for example, says that intelligence from the programs on 54 occasions “has contributed to the [U.S. government’s] understanding of terrorism activities and, in many cases, has enabled the disruption of potential terrorist events at home and abroad” — a much different claim than asserting that the programs have been responsible for thwarting 54 attacks.

NSA officials have mostly repeated versions of this wording.

When NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander spoke at a Las Vegas security conference in July, for instance, he referred to “54 different terrorist-related activities,” 42 of which were plots and 12 of which were cases in which individuals provided “material support” to terrorism.

But the NSA has not always been so careful.

During Alexander’s speech in Las Vegas, a slide in an accompanying slideshow read simply “54 ATTACKS THWARTED.”

And in a recent letter to NSA employees, Alexander and John Inglis, the NSA’s deputy director, wrote that the agency has “contributed to keeping the U.S. and its allies safe from 54 terrorist plots.” (The letter was obtained by reporter Kevin Gosztola from a source with ties to the intelligence community. The NSA did not respond when asked to authenticate it.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 11:27 am

Top CIA lawyer sides with Senate torture report

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Quite interesting article by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker:

Last night, along with the bill reopening the government, the Senate confirmed Stephen W. Preston, the top lawyer at the C.I.A., to move to the Pentagon to serve in the same role there. The vote slipped by unnoticed by most, but on close inspection, it revealed previously unreleased documents that lift the lid on an unusual standoff between Congress and the Obama Administration’s C.I.A. At its core is a bitter disagreement over an apparently devastating, and still secret, report by the Senate Intelligence Committee documenting in detail how the C.I.A.’s brutalization of terror suspects during the Bush years was unnecessary, ineffective, and deceptively sold to Congress, the White House, the Justice Department, and the public. The report threatens to definitively refute former C.I.A. personnel who have defended the program’s integrity. But so far, to the consternation of several members of the Intelligence Committee, the Obama Administration, like Bush’s before it, is keeping the damning details from public view.

Preston’s confirmation became a proxy skirmish in the fight. Obama reportedly hoped to get Preston confirmed before the congressional recess this past summer. Instead, Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, who is a member of both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Armed Services Committee, put a “hold” on Preston’s confirmation until he answered a set of additional, and previously undisclosed, questions. A copy of these seven questions, and Preston’s answers, obtained by The New Yorker (below), sheds new light on the conflict.

The questions and answers make clear that Udall, who has pushed vigorously for the report’s release, voted to confirm Preston only after he believed that the general counsel distanced himself from his own intelligence agency’s defiant and defensive stance on the six-thousand-three-hundred page report, which cost forty million dollars to produce. Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, are pushing to declassify and publicly release it. But John Brennan, the agency’s director, a career C.I.A. officer, and an Obama confidant, is apparently resisting disclosure, and challenging many of the report’s conclusions.

On June 27th, the C.I.A. delivered an impassioned rebuttal of the report to the committee. Last month marked the last of numerous meetings between C.I.A. and Intelligence Committee personnel over the disputed report. They did not go well, according to several informed sources. Meanwhile, despite Obama’s calls for increased transparency, the White House has apparently sat on the sidelines, urging the two intransigent sides to work out their differences. Without White House involvement, the standoff is likely to remain a huge battle.

Edward Price, a media spokesman for the C.I.A., said in a statement, “Mr. Preston’s answers are fully consistent with the Agency’s position and its response to the Senate report on the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program. The C.I.A. response noted that the C.I.A. agreed with a number of the Senate study’s findings and had taken steps to address shortcomings identified by the report, but it also detailed significant errors in the study.” The C.I.A. declined to discuss details, and documents suggest some significant differences between Preston and the agency.

The C.I.A. has defended its record on keeping Congress informed. In contrast, Preston, in his answers to Udall, concedes that, during the Bush years, the C.I.A. “fell well short” of current standards for keeping the congressional oversight committees informed of covert actions, as is required under the 1947 National Security Act.

In fact, Preston admits outright that, contrary to the C.I.A.’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the Committees included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

The contention that the C.I.A. provided inaccurate information to the congressional oversight committees is apparently extensively documented by the report. Udall notes that . . .

Continue reading.

You’ll recall that the CIA earlier destroyed videotaped evidence of its torture sessions. From the article at the link:

. . . As many as 92 tapes of terror war captives being tortured by CIA operatives were allegedly destroyed. Officials suggested these recordings depicted torture sessions with terrorism suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.

Along with the tapes, detailed records of the CIA’s so-called “torture flights,” showing the planes, destinations and even the passengers, were also said destroyed.

The destruction of these records was revealed by then-CIA Director Michael Hayden in Dec. 2007, who said the decision was made because the videos posed “a serious security risk” to the agency. [The risk was that the torturers and those who ordered the torture would face prosecution for war crimes. – LG]

The ultimate decision to destroy the torture tapes was made by Jose Rodriguez, the former Director of the National Clandestine Service. The Department of Justice (DoJ) said in Nov. that Rodriguez would not face charges.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in June that after a years-long investigation, the DoJ would probe the deaths of two prisoners who allegedly perished in the CIA’s custody. In doing so, he said that it was also dropping possible further inquiries into allegations of torture by CIA agents.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 11:11 am

What happens without paid sick leave? People come to work sick, of course.

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And they then infect others. Sy Mukherjee writes at ThinkProgress:

Almost 90 percent of workers come in to work despite knowing that they’re sick, according to Staples’ annual Flu Season Survey. That’s up significantly from two years ago — despite the fact that there are policies we could put in place to reverse this trend.

One way that employers could reduce the number of workers coming in sick is by implementing telecommuting programs. Staples found that more than half of workers at companies with those programs were likely to stay home and telecommute during flu season to avoid spreading or contracting germs.

But 21 percent of those respondents said they still came in to work sick, even though they had the option of telecommuting, because they didn’t think working from home would be feasible. And as Staples points out in its press release accompanying the survey, worker productivity is drastically compromised when the worker is ill — not to mention that many types of work simply cannot be done from home.

So a more expansive approach to discouraging sick employees from coming in would be expanding paid sick leave. The data shows that this method is extremely successful in reducing flu transmissions between co-workers, which make up 11.54 percent of all flu infections, according to a 2013 study by the University of Pittsburgh. With universal paid sick leave access, 72 percent of employees stayed home for roughly two days on average, cutting flu transmissions by over five percent.

Instituting “flu days” — fully paid leave specifically for the purpose of recovering or avoiding the flu — was even more effective. Companies that offered just one flu day saw workplace infections fall by more than 25 percent on average, while companies that offered two saw infections fall by a staggering 39 percent.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t heed the evidence that paid sick leave is ultimately good for productivity and health. About 40 percent of private sectors workers and 80 percent of low-income private sector workers have no paid sick days. But some states and cities are trying to buck that trend. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop signed the country’s seventh paid sick leave bill into law on Monday, extending paid sick leave benefits to more than 30,000 workers who didn’t have them before.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 11:01 am

Externalizing costs: Payroll

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As noted in earlier posts, corporations like to “externalize” their costs, which is a studiously neutral way of saying that the costs are not paid by the corporation, but by others. An obvious example: a manufacturer who dumps pollution and leaves it to the public to cover the costs of the clean-up.

Sometimes, of course, externalizing the costs are benign: in the supermarket we all now readily accept that we will do our own picking of items from the shelves rather than the supermarket paying clerks to do the task, and on the whole we like it: it’s faster and we get to pick the individual items—I was stunned once in France at a produce stand where the manager would not allow me to pick the items: he picked them for me. And in some supermarkets customers bag and pay for their groceries themselves: a self-service checkout lane.

As you can tell, payroll is a cost that corporations constantly examine, thus the steady current of automating operations so that line workers (salaries, benefits, bad days, illnesses) are replaced by machines.

But sometimes workers—human workers—are essential. But even there, corporate ingenuity finds a way: payroll costs can to some extent be externalized by having taxpayers pick up some of the payroll. This is done by setting wages low enough so that the workers qualify for governmental assistance in purchasing food. Those SNAP funds are, in effect, taxpayers covering some of the cost of providing workers enough money so they can live.

Alexander Abad-Santos has an article at the Atlantic Wire that explains more about the situation. the article includes this:

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 10:59 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

Measuring America’s decline, in three charts

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John Cassidy has an interesting note at the New Yorker. Here’s one of the charts:

Problem solving

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 10:46 am

Posted in Education

“The government should have let the private do everything for HealthCare.gov”: That’s been tried.

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Doesn’t work. The private sector can really produce a project fubar, as it has shown on numerous occasions. Lydia DePillis has details.

I think the governor of Kentucky (whose exchange is working extremely well) had it right: “Take a deep breath and chill out.” The thing will be fixed And it should be pointed out that the problem exists only for states that refused to open their own healthcare exchanges—and most of those also refused to allow the expansion of Medicare in their state.

exchange-map2

As of 16 October, the available figures are shown in the chart  below. Note the date associat4ed with each figure. Some undoubtedly have greatly surpassed these early figures:

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 10.27.15 AM

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 10:39 am

Let the Scent-Off begin! Mystic Waters Indian Summer shave 1

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SOTD 24 Oct 2013

You can see the presentation: tub arrived in gift sack, along with card explaining the goals of the fragrance. (On the reverse were suggests for a good shave.)

Shave 1 is with a Vie-Long boar brush, one of my favorites. (This is the one BullgooseShaving.net named “Bombito”.) The fragrance is quite attractive and noticeable in both puck and lather. I got a very good lather, and the lather in the brush easily lasted the three passes I did.

I got a really excellent shave—BBS for the most part—with the Gillette Executive holding a newish Personna Lab Blue blade. The blade felt very effective, though of course the prep was a significant contributing factor.

I like the soap and the fragrance. I’ll also do the next two shaves with the same soap so I can get to know it better before finally evaluating it for the Sharpologist column. The dates, I now realize, are in effect deadlines by which Mantic59 needs our results. I was somehow thinking that the date marked the beginning of the week when I should use the soaps. No problem: I’ll be done with this one in time, and the others I can schedule a little earlier each week.

So this schedule is the posting schedule for Sharpologist, not me:

October 28 – Mystic Water
November 4 – Barrister & Mann
November 11 – How To Grow A Moustache
November 18 – Fitjar Soaps
November 25 – Petal Pushers
December 2 – Green Mountain

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2013 at 10:06 am

Posted in Shaving

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